“Social CRM” is Dead, Long Live the Social Customer Experience


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Is it my imagination, or is the lifespan of buzzwords shorter these days?

“Social CRM” was coined by Oracle in 2008 to mean collaborative sales using Web 2.0 technologies. Since then, other vendors, consultants and analysts have jumped in like sharks after chum in the water. The culmination: Early this year Gartner predicted a $Billion Social CRM market by 2012.

Really? Can you call something a market if the participants don’t want to be in it? Even as interest in social computing applications is accelerating, software marketers are increasingly using “customer experience” or, less frequently, “social business” to peddle their wares.

The problem with Social CRM is two-fold:

  1. Tacking “social” on the front of CRM doesn’t change the market perception that CRM is about front-office (mainly sales) automation. Salesforce.com is the classic example of a CRM vendor, and is nearly always the first vendor named when I bring up the term “CRM” in conversations with business managers.
  2. “Social CRM” proponents can’t seem to agree on a concise definition. The only thing (almost) for certain is that Social CRM includes some usage of social media. Even then, some say that Social CRM is a term for collaboration with customers. Do we really need a new name for phone calls and golf outings?

In a recent series of executive meetings, I brought up “Social CRM” in conversations and not once did someone know what it meant. Very surprising, for a to-be $Billion market. CRM, on the other hand, was very well understood as a company-centric approach to automate the front office. By contrast, there was tremendous interest in Customer Experience Management (CEM) as an outside-in counterweight to CRM. And sure, social media is a hot topic, but I’ve yet to talk to a business leader who sees it as strongly connected to CRM.

Here are a few prominent examples of how vendors have shifted their positioning away from Social CRM:

  • In 2009, Lithium was one of the first to jump on the Social CRM bandwagon, marketing community solutions as a “Social CRM Suite.” Now it’s called the Social Customer Suite, which “engages your social customers with habit-forming community experiences.”
  • Text analytics vendor Attensity has a brief flirtation with SCRM after acquiring Biz360, but has since moved to a CEM positioning. Attensity’s recent announcement of a VoC Command Center is designed to “integrate the real-time voice of the customer into their business and improve the customer experience,” according to CEO Ian Bonner.
  • Analyst firm Altimeter Group helped launch Social CRM by publishing “Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management” in March 2010. Since then, not one additional report on Social CRM. In fact, the firm appears to switching to Social Business instead. Recently Jeremiah Owyang launched a Survey on Social Business Programs which makes no mention of Social CRM.
  • What about sales-related (you know, “CRM”) vendors? One might think these companies would for sure stick with Social CRM. Well, Nimble was one of the early proponents, but also seems to be shifting away. On June 20 Nimble target=”_blank”>announced that it “Brings Social Relationship Management and Collaboration to an Entire Company.”
  • Likewise, Xeesm, which I reviewed in target=”_blank”>Will the real Social CRM leader please stand up? about one year ago, is now selling Social Relationship Management.
  • In the hot marketing automation space, virtually every vendor has added social capabilities over the past couple of years. But I can’t think of even one vendor that goes to market as a Social CRM or even a CRM vendor. Earlier this year, Neolane announced a Social Marketing solution which it positions as part of “conversational marketing.”
  • At Oracle, you’ll have to work to find Social CRM on a page for sales solutions. But on that page you’ll notice a Social CRM link to http://www.oracle.com/applications/socialcrm/index.html, which redirects to a general page about Fusion apps. What, no love for Social CRM by the founder?

So, after a couple of years in the spotlight “Social CRM” appears to have served its purpose of drawing attention to the social-izing of customer-facing business apps, and now vendors have moved on. Hopefully analysts will wise up, too.

Gartner’s target=”_blank”>Social CRM Magic Quadrant has been widely derided. What sense does it make to compare community software from Jive to social media monitoring from Radian6 to a social (sales) intelligence vendor like InsideView? Absolutely none.

But the good news is that the smart people at Gartner, just like their vendor clients, have realized that the term “CRM” has outlived its usefulness. Gartner’s annual CRM conference is now called Customer 360 Summit, a move my sources say was driven by their vendor clients’ dissatisfaction participating in a “CRM” conference.

Of course, Social CRM continues to serve a marketing purpose, at least for now. If you do a Google search on Social CRM, you’ll see lots of vendor ads. But click through and you’ll find that term is rarely found on the advertisers’ web sites. Bait and switch?

I wonder how long those ads will continue to be placed considering that Google Trends shows waning interest in Social CRM, while searches on CRM continue a long decline.

Terms DO matter. Vendors have figured that out. It’s time for the CRM analysts and consultants to update their positioning too, because Social CRM is a term that has peaked and is headed to wherever bad acronyms go to die. In the future, look for even more vendors to move towards CEM and some to Social Business.

Further reading:


  1. Bob,
    Great insights. The irony is that which the term may not survive much longer in the pundit class, the level of inquiries that we are seeing at Forrester that relate to topic “Social CRM” is acclerating. There may not be agreement on what Social CRM is, but our clients increasingly are increasingly asking about it. However, Customer Experience (CEM), with a social angle, is clearly the higher ground.

  2. Bill, a lot of dust has been stirred up in the past couple of years. I’m sure clients want to know what the fuss is about.

    And, if someone has a CRM system, it’s also natural to want to integrate with social media.

    To me, Social CRM means connecting CRM systems (sales/marketing/service) to Social Business solutions (communities, monitoring, blogging, etc.).

    Social CRM = Social+CRM.

    However, they are distinctly different sets of technologies and serve different purposes. Mashing them together in one market space makes no sense.

    I found it strange that “social” solutions like Lithium or Radian6 were being labelled Social CRM when they had nothing to do with CRM.

    Well, that is clearly changing. The main point of my post is simply that “social” vendors are abandoning the term Social CRM for something more meaningful — attached to CEM or Social Business. But it may take quite some time for customers to catch up.

  3. Nice post Bob. A keen eye on the state of affairs I must exclaim in joy! 🙂 Most flew past me though I came by them; but now that you have connected the dots I cant un-see the picture now. 😀

    However, I wonder why do you limit your pattern sensing to vendors, technology vendors at that?

    Like Bill we too are seeing an increase in interest from our clients to know about Social CRM; but its mostly about their own sense making journey. Thus after the free insights they get from us we are seeing very elongated sales cycles. But luckily they turn out to be business consulting opportunities. We do see systems integration & custom IT related opportunities too.

    People are still fumbling around with all the disruption the boom in social computing has enabled, both on the internet as well as within the enterprise firewalls.

    We (you, me and the multitude others who have been disputing about the nomenclature, definition and classification of all things “social” for the past few years) are the early adopters of these disruptive technologies; the real practitioners with the kind of case studies we early adopters will all feel proud will be the early adapters, not adopters.

    These early adapters (as opposed to adopters) will figure out how exactly can they muzzle the disruption effectively to put them to work not just for their business, but also their business ecosystem (this is because of the nature of the disruptive technologies).

    Knowledge Management, Learning, Collaboration, Employee recruiting/onboarding/retaining, Rewards & Recognition, Partner/Distributor/Channel management, Customer XYZ (relationship management, marketing, sales, service, experience management, engagement, etc.) … everything needs to be relooked.

    Rather than merely looking at the tech disruptions that Harish seems to have caught up with (since we are the early adopters, remember?), we need to look at Graham’s pet topics like Customer Co-Creation, Service Dominant Logic, Jobs to be done, Value Networks, etc. to help the breed of early adapters we are all eagerly waiting for.

    In the meantime, all we have is posturing by every kind of vendor (product, service, analyst or publication) to promote a particular nomenclature/definition/classification to claim either “market leadership” or “thought leadership”. And you know I am included in that above list as well because of my employment status, if not personal posturing. 🙂

    I have begun my journey to be an early adapter too (in addition to being an early adopter) in parallel to being a co-traveler for the early adapters in my clientele. Hope you embark on such a similar journey too. All the best! 🙂


  4. Hi Bob,

    Great article definitely got me thinking and I had a couple of thoughts and questions.

    In terms of definition of SCRM hasn’t Paul Greenberg created a widely accepted definition? Do you think that people agree with it?

    "CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It's the company's response to the customer's ownership of the conversation.”

    In terms of CRM as a ” front-office (mainly sales) automation” I think people are absolutely right in thinking that. SCRM is just and extension of CRM and the processes involved in it and not a replacement and more than just another channel. SCRM can only happen if there is a successful existing CRM strategy in place in which it can help deliver more value.

    Finally in your response above you mention “Social CRM = Social+CRM” and by this are you talking about the technology platforms used to deliver the solutions? Although some companies like Lithium and Oracle try to coin the phrase in their marketing and may now be moving away for it, to me SRCM isn’t just about technology, its a philosophy of working and shows how companies are accepting that customers now control the conversation and are adapting the way they are operating. I think SCRM is the outward facing side of the social business allowing for things such as value co creation and customer communities.

    I agree the term or SCRM may move on but I hope the principles of SCRM will continue to be used by companies.


  5. Prem, thanks very much for your comments. I always enjoy your perspective.

    Over the past 12+ years I’ve done primary research on CRM, CEM, and Social Business. That includes the practices that make initiatives successful, and the tech that (sometimes) enables them.

    These concepts are fundamentally different. Taking community solutions and declaring them a type of CRM is just strange. Connecting communities to CRM and calling it Social CRM does make sense, but that’s just me.

    There is plenty of overlap and opportunities for integration and synergy. In fact, my research finds that industry leaders do the best job of ANDing these ideas and technologies, rather than treating them as independent silos. So, Social CRM makes sense conceptually, but so does Social Experience. And, in many cases CEM needs CRM systems.

    What bothers me is the attempt to take one idea and expand it to such an extreme that it has no meaning. Some in the CEM camp, for example, claim it includes CRM. CRMers say the opposite. So far, I haven’t seen social media proponents or vendors claiming they are the answer to CRM or CEM, but maybe we will.

    The point that seems lost on the various factions is that business leaders are weary of all this. The hype cycles are coming faster and faster these days, thanks in part to social media.

    All that said, my post was mainly about how the “Social CRM” term has been used by vendors, who are now abandoning the term. From past experience with CRM, vendor marketing has an enormous influence on the market, far greater than the good work that you are doing promoting SCRM from a strategy perspective.

  6. I’m glad you put a stake in the ground. SCRM actually never existed – not as a product. But I guess it was a great business to talk about, write about, research about, and mostly: consult about how it could’a should’a would’a if it actually might come in an undefined future.

    Maybe Gartner and friends can make it a $B market of research, reporting, media, speaking engagements, events and consulting – who needs a real product 😉


  7. I heard this many years ago at the peak of CRM mania. CRM was indeed a bonanza for consultants, especially in the early days when most of the software was installed.

    Although CRM is still being pitched as a strategy in some quarters, I think most CRM/sCRM consulting and analyst work revolves around technology. True customer strategy consultants generally don’t use the term CRM to describe what they do, because clients assume CRM=technology.

    It would be kind of weird if this time around vendors abandon Social CRM but consultants and analysts stick with it. Confusion is good for business, I suppose. This is the first time in my 12+ years in this industry that I’ve seen analysts define a market space that vendors don’t care to be identified with–although they’re happy to get those SCRM leads, thank you very much.

  8. Bob,

    maybe I am fighting windmills here but I am seriously of the opinion that CRM and social CRM are business strategies – nothing else. Just implementing tools makes the tools pretty meaningless – except for the vendors, and some of the SI’s, of course. Tools without a strategy are at best toys, if not utterly useless.

    Now, how “true” customer strategy consultants name it is a different story. Partly their name/branding/thought leadership depends on finding an own terminology as well … From a work point of view there is always more to be done on the technology side than on the strategy consulting side. Sooner or later the strategy that gets developed needs to be implemented and executed on, which usually lasts longer than the strat work. I think that it is up to analysts, researchers, bloggers, consultants to consolidate the word clouds that vendors and si’s are creating.

    Just my two cents 😉

    PS: I fully agree with you in the opinion that the Gartner MQ compared too different products to define a common market other than the vendors asking for the same money.

  9. Tilting at windmills is an apt analogy, I’m sorry to say. I’ve done it myself with respect to CRM, but no more.

    It’s fine to declare CRM/sCRM a strategy, and for some it’s true. But when you say “CRM” it doesn’t mean strategy to most business people. They think it means software and companies like Salesforce.com, which has the stock symbol CRM after all.

    Many strategy consultants have abandoned the term CRM because clients assume that a CRM consultant focuses on things like vendor selection. CEM and Social Business are hot growth areas for consultants now.

    On the technology side, the marketplace confusion about SCRM has reached such a point that even vendors don’t want to be associated with the term. A direct quote from a vendor recently: “Social CRM has become a buzzword that mean everything, and therefore nothing.” That vendor, which does social media monitoring, now prefers to be associated with CEM.

  10. @Thomas I’m running the largest CEM group on LinkedIn with close to 10,000 high caliber people from sales, service and support, some from product management, others from call centers…. The core of the discussion gravitates around Customer Experience Management, how to, what, what structure, what tools, what KPIs… How to improve customer relationships, how to improve internal processes, dealing with customer loyalty and many other adjacent topics.

    The term CRM is almost never used. To us, CRM solutions are tools that help sales managers to manage their sales teams, see forecasts, compute quotas and so forth. CRM people are those who build it or implement it.

  11. Axel, Bob,

    thanks for your replies; I really appreciate discussions with you. It is probably part of my heritage that I like the letter R in the middle ;-). I understand and acknowledge that there is a variety of terms – still I am not yet at the point that Bob has already reached although I, too, will not kick myself out of a client, just by refusing to use their preferred terminology. I see the same tendency that Bob refers to, but I am of the opinion that it is the job of the same consultants (both, techno or functional, as well as business) to rectify this image. There are still too many customers approaching us with the wish to implement a CRM system without knowing how their business processes are, or which ones of them they want to improve upon. This is a recipe for failing projects – of which we, too, see too many. I define failure as not meeting business expectations here, and not as a project that doesn’t stay in budget or timeline or gets abandoned.

    Maybe I am naive here but my opinion is that it is up to us (high and not so high profile consultants, analysts, bloggers, and practitioners) to make sure that a strategy gets out of the tech arena. It is simply not good for the overall industry. Unluckily overall we are not doing a good job here.

    @Axel: I would see CEM as a spinoff or rather specialization of a CRM area. A while ago we simply talked cross channel strategies and now we have found a new term and 3 letter abbreviation – and are talking tools again. Nothing bad with the first part but I would still argue that there is no CEM without CRM, that the former even is a part of the latter. To me CEM is a strategy to make the existing CRM more effective by ensuring consistency across all touchpoints a company has with customers. I am not talking systems here, which merely serve the ability to execute at all or make the execution more efficient.

    Not having looked deeper into your group my experience is that Linkedin group discussions tend to cover very specific topics/questions. This then leads to using specific terms rather than an umbrella term that CRM is.

    But where does this leave us? Bob finds that terms like CRM and SCRM have become hollow and that vendors are jumping onto the next bandwagon (which includes CEM, sorry) to stay hip and seemingly on top of things. As Prem mentioned before the customer base has not even reached the SCRM stage – and probably is currently approaching or is in the trough of tears. I don’t have a complete answer here but think that as long as the leading industry players cannot agree upon the outlines of a taxonomy we are leaving our customers behind instead of using the matches that Prem thinks we have at hand now.

    Maybe a little more collaboration (or co-opetition to use another buzz word) is the right way to go ahead?


  12. Thomas,

    Do you really think consultants can change the market perception of CRM at this point? When a trend is beginning there is an opportunity to influence, but that ship sailed a long time ago for CRM.

    As you noted in your comment: “There are still too many customers approaching us with the wish to implement a CRM system without knowing how their business processes are, or which ones of them they want to improve upon.” This supports my point that companies think of CRM as supporting processes — typically marketing, sales and service. You’re right that a “strategy” is needed to make process improvement deliver the best results.

    But is this really all that a “relationship” is about, as customers see it? Experiences are what they perceive, and it’s not just the customer-facing part of marketing/sales/service automation — although these can be part of an experience. In a retail firm, for example, the in-store experience is critical, which includes the layout, how clerks serve them, etc. People matter most here. I’ve yet to see a CRM project that considers these sorts of things, but CEM does.

    CRM and CEM are fundamentally different in their orientation. Both are essential to good business, and increasingly so is using social/collaborative solutions (Social Business).

    But perception is reality. I don’t think it has worked for CRMers to claim that it includes CEM, and my research is finding the same is true of Social Business. The CRM community seems to just declare CRM has an expanded definition and then “it is so.” Sorry, the market doesn’t want to follow along.

    Suggestion: ring up some CEM and Social Business consultants and have a detailed chat about what they do. I’ll wager you’ll find it is quite different from what you and other CRM consultants do. And you may find there are opportunities to work together, because businesses need all three capabilities.

    For more on CRM vs. CEM, read my article
    The Next Generation of Customer Management? Customer Experience Management.

  13. Axel,

    Come on, if Social CRM never existed as a product, then Social Relationship Management does not exist and never existed as a product either. Are we really going to nit pick to the point that a missing word makes all of the difference? Are you saying that SRM, with a customer is not SCRM?

    By the way, I am not saying that Social CRM existed as a product or not, we have had the debate. I have written myself “Social CRM is a House of Cards”, over a year ago. I am with a vendor, and the most important part is the business problem we are trying to solve. The only terms that matter are the ones the customer understands.


  14. Bob, thanks for this thought-provoking post. True, there are as many opinions and definitions as there are people who “peddle their wares,” myself included.

    Social networks are indeed not much different from “phone calls and golf outings” — fundamentally, it’s all about the growing number of conversation channels. This intensifies a universal core problem that is rarely talked about: data fragmentation. The corollary to it is lack of unified customer experience.

    Whatever it’s called, here’s our take on what social CRM means in practical terms.



  15. Dmitri,

    Thanks for your comment. Your definition of Social CRM makes complete sense to me…

    In practical terms, all this means that relevant social network conversations have to be synced into your CRM, and associated with appropriate customers. From that point on they become simple action items, and you can do with them whatever you normally do in your CRM. Typically this would be look up the contact details and prior history, create new lead, respond using the right medium, discuss the issue internally if called for, determine the next action steps and who's responsible.

    This is what I’ve been saying from the beginning, and so did Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group. Social CRM means connecting social data to customer data. You need both to have Social CRM.

    So I agree Social CRM is a great term for CRM vendors like Relenta. Business people will understand that they get a CRM system with extended social capabilities. Perfect.

    The problem is that others (vendors, consultants, pundits) have tried to extend Social CRM to mean other things, such as:
    * personal collaboration with customers (no CRM, no social media)
    * social media monitoring (no CRM without integration)
    * customer communities (again, no CRM)
    * internal social networks (not CRM)
    * co-creating value (no technology needed here)

    I could go on, but the point is that the term has been used in so many different ways that it’s becoming useless. That’s why why many of the purely social vendors are re-positioning.

    It’s unfortunate that your firm has to deal with this confusion, when you are using “Social CRM” is the most clear and straightforward manner possible.

  16. Dimitri – seriously I don’t want to belittle your idea – in fact I thought the very same about 3 years ago when we thought about leveraging social media in the sales organization. But it ain’t work’n this way :J

    If you think about porting your existing and well known processes into the social web – yes – great idea. But if you do it reality it’s like giving your customers a camera and tracking every step they do and then store it in quadro gazillion petabyte archive to capture it all 🙂

    In the new world (social media) you have two underlying objectives
    1) You want to do much more with less
    2) You want to do it in less time.

    That means you ramp the number of accounts a rep has from lets say 50 to 100 and you want that rep to touch base with their clients twice as often. (I know what I’m saying because that is what we are doing for a living for 3 years).

    Take 100 clients and say you have 10 – 20 people per client that makes on average 1,500 people. They tweet and post and comment about 20 timers a day that makes 30,000 posts per day – now they do that from your time 7 in the morning till 10 at night. Personal, business and everything in between – every single day including Sunday. Your rep ends up to be a professional “post reader” 🙂 We had that feature and actually ripped it out 6 month later.

    What we learned: User generated content is outperforming corporate content by more than 10:1 and you just have to give in – stop thinking about capturing everything – this was the biggest problem with CRM and if you drag it into “social” it will explode.

    Taking mainframe software and porting it onto PCs didn’t work. Welding wings on a bus and hoping it’s flying doesn’t work.

    Morphing an old technology into a new world has never worked since we invent technology. Yet we always try – every single time, never succeeded. Differentiate between incremental functionality and new concepts. Adoption and evolution are fantastic concepts of nature and we have to learn it time and time again when something new pops. The caterpillar turns into a butterfly – yes it still has some organs but the whole animal is a different concept.

  17. Thanks for the reflections, Alex. The key word in our definition is “relevant.” You are absolutely right, there is no need to sync 30,000 daily brain dumps from your entire prospect database into CRM. But the direct messages and one-to-one conversations do deserve to reside in one central place. That’s the only way I know to get more done with less effort.

    Rock on!


  18. Good article.

    The noise and confusion notwithstanding, in my opinion …

    1) Social is two things.
    a) It's a mindset.
    b) It's a set of tools.

    2) We will see the adoption of specific tools and mindset based on the business function (business process)
    For example,
    a) HR will adopt social tools (like wiki, facebook) within the enterprise to promote the mindset of 'transparency'.
    b) Customer service will adopt social tools (like monitoring) to promote the mindset that 'listening to customers is important'
    c) Sales will adopt social tools (like linkedIn) to promote networking and connections.
    d) (consumer retail) Marketing will adopt social tools like facebook to promote branding.
    e) Finance (ERP) or legal may never adopt any social tools.

  19. Bob –

    Great article. The term ‘Social CRM’ seems to be slowly retreating like the last Ice Age. It was always a somewhat manufactured way of trying to meld the evolution of principally online communication with traditional CRM concepts and techniques. Increasingly, as you note, CEM is the more universal term for what b2b and b2c companies, and consulting organizations, are endeavoring to accomplish in business outcome terms.

    For instance, I’m working closely with a major customer service outsource company. Their corporate theme is “Turning Customers Into Advocates”, and they do it through outstanding customer experience management through staff training and effective, customer-driven service processes. Customer service typically accounts for 70%, or more, of customer perceptions and resulting behavior, so there is a fairly direct and consistent relationship between experience and advocacy.

    Leading organizations are so effective at CEM that there’s a close link between the brand or company, the experience, and downstream customer behavior. The brand and the customer experience are almost identical, and any lines between them are blurred. Zappos, The Container Store, IKEA, Zane’s Cycles, Wegmans, Southwest Airlines, and Umpqua Bank are great examples, covered in my recent article for CustomerThink: http://www.customerthink.com/article/customer_advocacy_and_the_branded_experience



  20. My 2 cents:

    I believe we’d all agree that “experience” is the highest level of deliverable and that products/services that are wrapped with interesting experiences easily stand around. What social has done is that it has accelerated the pace with which we are moving towards experience economy.

    Consider this – If you want to sell something to people who are connected to social-web, your going to have to first engage them (see Paul Greenberg’s definition of social CRM) but what’s engagement? Engagement is created by experience and social media offers an extremely powerful platform to create meaningful/participatory experiences. These concepts fall outside the realm of CRM.

    The R in CRM stands for the relationship that a customer maintains with a brand over his lifetime (with the brand; source – Regis McKenna & Jim Novo). To maintain and prolong R, companies use CRM analytics (RFM scores etc.) and improve their relevance to consumers (e.g: offer discounts to customers who are showing signs of dis-engagement etc.).

    We still need CRM to remain relevant but we also need to be able to engage customers. Engagement comes from orchestrating experiences; and social plays an important role here.

    It’d be a good idea to keep these two fields separate; if we really have the urge to club two buzzwords together – I’d say let’s call it social CEM !!

    If you think I made some sense here, you might want to check these too:

  21. Tauqueer, I enjoyed reading your post Why "Social CRM” should be called "Social CEM”? Thanks for including a link to this post, and for adding to the discussion here.

    It’s hard sometimes to understand what’s really happening vs. the buzz generated by various industry interests.

    “Social CRM” is a buzzword driven by the CRM software industry and affiliated analysts and consultants. As noted in my post, in many cases what is being called Social CRM is really a “social business” application like community software or social media monitoring. No real connection to CRM except in the buzzword.

    Well, these “social” vendors have decided that, while riding the buzzword may have been a good thing to do the past couple of years, that time has past. Now they are repositioning as a CEM or Social Business solutions.

    Perhaps we’ll see Social CEM emerge as the next buzzword, but I doubt it. The “customer experience” industry is plenty strong without having to attach itself to the “social business” industry. But I think the social customer experience is very real and important, even though it has not been hyped.

    The idea of sCEM makes as much sense as sCRM, if you take these terms to mean the integration of social business with CEM and CRM, respectively. There is value in social data and analytics, which is great input to CRM (marketing, sales, service automation). But equally important, as you noted, is the experiential value of social media.

    Unfortunately, despite saying CRM includes CEM, the CRM industry has a very limited view of customer experience, thinking it is mainly how customers perceive CRM-automated processes. CEM thought leaders know that customer experience is a much broader concept where people matter too in the complete end-to-end experience.

  22. Mitch Lieberman makes some good points here, referencing a recent IBM study which says Social CRM is the endpoint of an evolution from social media: Social CRM is not "Dead”; Social Media needs to Evolve.

    And Prem Kumar, in Social CRM is dead, long live Social CRM? argues that: “What we need now is a breed of early adapters who will use the disruptive forces (social computing & other non technological ones) to provide value not just to their businesses but also their business ecosystems.”

    My view: the concepts behind Social CRM are not dead. But the buzzword is not very useful when 10 different people define it 10 different ways.

  23. Bob

    I think you are guilty of over-egging the pudding. You read too much into vendors’, analysts’ and consultants’ attempts at differentiating themselves and not enough into what they are actually doing.

    I must admit I don’t talk to vendors or analysts all that much. But I do talk to a lot of consultants and to even more companies. Consultants are seeing a huge growth in interest on SocCRM from companies looking to benefit from infusing social information into their marketing, sales and service activities. Whether telecom, automobile or luxury goods companies, all are interested in becoming more social and are hiring SocCRM as a key way to do so.

    They may look at SocCEM at a later stage, but for now, their prime interest is in SocCRM. And SocCEM is an addition to SocCRM, not a replacement. If truth be told, SocCEM isn’t going to replace SocCRM any more than CEM didn’t replace CRM.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator


  24. “…and not enough into what they are actually doing.”

    Graham, this is a brilliant observation.

    I haven’t met an analyst who is capable of actually understanding what companies are doing. The reason for it is that they don’t have to get daily business done the way CRM foot soldiers have to. Analysts see reality through a prism that is usually irrelevant to those in the sales, marketing and customer service trenches.

  25. …and this would also explain the notorious 50 per cent failure rate in CRM project. The buying decisions are not made by the people who get things done. I bet that the failure rate is significantly lower or non-existent for small businesses, where people who do the work decide what tools they will use.

  26. Graham,

    My post was about vendors moving away from the term “Social CRM” because it has become an overly broad buzzword that doesn’t differentiate them.

    I’ve run my own research and you’re right that companies are using, or planning to use, all sorts of social media/technology. Whether they are calling it “Social CRM” is an open question, but I suspect that CRMers will continue to use this term regardless of what vendors or analysts do.

    Incidentally, I think you crafted a very nice and practical definition of what Social CRM really is:

    “…companies looking to benefit from infusing social information into their marketing, sales and service activities.”

    Unfortunately, as we’ve learned with the history of CRM, this inside-out orientation won’t exactly inspire customers to become more loyal. The CRM mindset is still about “what’s in it for the company” and not really about the customer.

    Marketing wants to use social to generate leads. Sales to close more deals. Service to cut costs by customers helping each other. CRM infused with social information is a Good Thing, but so was web-based CRM, also known as e-CRM. Nobody uses that term anymore, and I think the same will be true of SCRM before long, because adding social to CRM systems has become commonplace.

    I don’t know that “Social CEM” will become much of a buzzword, but I do expect more progressive and truly customer-centric companies to focus on on how social will help deliver loyalty-building experiences, and not just to refine existing marketing/sales/service processes for the company’s benefit.

  27. In my post I stated that Oracle coined the term “Social CRM.” and so far as I know, it’s still true that Oracle was the first to use the term where “social” refers to the use of social media or collaborative technologies.

    But there actually was a prior usage of “Social CRM” by another software company — Kintera. Except “social” doesn’t refer to social computing but rather to society. Kintera’s “Social CRM” was a “contact relationship management” solution focused on nonprofits.

    So, while Kintera used “Social CRM” term earlier than Oracle, it wasn’t used in the way people commonly think about Social CRM now — a marriage of social media and CRM.

    Isn’t it a shame that “social” became another word for using technology, and not humanity. Maybe we need to create a new term — “Human CRM” — to remind technologists that customers are people and should be treated that way. Read my latest post on why CRM doesn’t earn loyalty for more on the impact of treating customers like leads, deals and incidents.

  28. Hi Bob

    I agree with you about ‘social’ being hijacked by analysts, vendors and consultants for their own nefarious purposes. The same happened with CRM and CEM in the past and has already starting to happen with Customer Co-Creation; the next evolutionary stage in customer-orientation.

    The oldest book on ‘social’ on my extensive bookshelf was written over 20 years ago in 1989. Robert Kotler’s ‘Social Marketing’ is all about using marketing to achieve societally beneficial goals such as having babies vaccinated, stopping smoking and saving for your old age. A far cry from the societally irrelevant fluff such as Facebook, Twitter and Klout that passes as ‘social’ today.

    Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler carried on 20 years after Kotler left-off with their 2009 book ‘Connected’, and their extensive research published in medical and scientific journals describing how social networks really work.

    If only marketers spent a little more time with Kotler and Christakis & Fowler and a little less time promoting themselves on Facebook and Twitter, the world of marketing today would be in a much better state.

    Graham Hill
    Custmer-centric Innovator

  29. Hi Bob,

    I totally and utterly agree that it is a pity that humanistic terms and concepts are converted (or rather limited, to not use worse words) to technology.

    But let me challenge you a little (and there is no pun intended!):

    You, yourself, as an influencer are a protagonist for CRM (and social CRM) being a technology and not a strategy. I believe that the term social CRM should and will be merged into CRM again, and one will not specifically talk about “social” anymore. This is because CRM (as a strategy) in itself is inherently social because it is about people (and culture) and not about technology.

    Any other term, e.g. “human CRM” or “co-creation” as Graham justifiedly states, is likely to suffer from one of two fates: Oblivion or being reduced to technology – also because enough influencers are using this trail.

    What would you see as a way out into the right direction, except insistance of a number of Don Quixottes who believe in strategy over technology? The right direction imo would be that technology is always a helper but not a means in itself.

    Cheers from Down Under

  30. Graham,

    This funny business of prefixing everything with”social” (where I am a contributor too) is beginning to be less funny by the day.

    Haydn Shaughnessy, over at forbes is trying to create the string theory of social business. Good effort. http://www.forbes.com/sites/haydnshaughnessy/2011/11/04/beyond-facebook-an-update-on-what-is-a-social-business/ May be that’s what we need for social crm?

    I think rather than an evolution of CRM or business, we might as well chart and track and influence the meaning and usage of the word “social”, eh? 😉


  31. Thomas, I’m reporting what I see in the market, and what I find in my research. It’s not my role to try to define CRM, CEM or Social whatever. What I’m pointing out is that strategic CRM rhetoric is not backed up with market acceptance.

    The problem of CRM=technology is not one I created. In fact, years ago I ran around giving speeches much like what you are giving now, promoting the idea that CRM is a customer-centric business strategy, where technology is a “helper” and not a driver.

    And many others have done the same. And yet, here we are. Business managers have not adopted that way of thinking, after 15+ years.

    Apparently pointing out “what is so” hasn’t endeared me to the CRM community. Now I’m the pundit that has created the problem? Seriously, just Google “CRM” and you’ll see why people think CRM is mainly about automation.

    And it’s not just the vendors. Some of the biggest proponents of CRM=strategy mainly write about, or spend there time with, software vendors. For example, the CRM Idol awards program puts a spotlight on vendors. How does this help change the perception that CRM = technology? Obviously it doesn’t.

    My main advice, which I’ve given many times now, is to use the terms “CRM strategy” and “CRM technology” to be clear about what you mean. Because the market will assume technology most of the time.

    Aside from that, I’d say we need more people writing about “humanistic” CRM and providing examples of CRM strategy and implementation where technology is NOT the main driver. There are precious few examples like this. Just repeating CRM=strategy isn’t enough, you have to SHOW the market what you mean with examples!

  32. Prem and Thomas, you both make a very good point. Things can change and evolve over time. For better or worse.

    In CRM-the-concept, the “R” means a real relationship. That’s what attracted me to this industry in 1998. But in recent years it has been dumbed down to mean “Revenue” for those who equate CRM with sales automation, or some other attribute of customer data (incidents, cost, leads, etc.). This is not how most customers would describe a relationship.

    And “social” used to mean, well, being social. Now it is evolving to mean using social media as Facebook takes over the world.

    These are examples of technology taking over terms that had a richer meaning.

    Of course CRM can continue to evolve. I just haven’t seen any examples where a tech-infused term became known in a non-tech way. It’s much the same problem that any big brand has changing its image. Takes many years, lots of marketing and real changes in what the brand does to change perception.

    There was a time when Japanese cars were considered to be poor quality. Over time they became know for high quality. Hyundai is an example of a brand that continues to improve its reputation, after entering the market as a low-cost brand.

    So, yes, CRM can and should evolve. CRMers who are dissatisfied with the market’s tech perception should work together to change that perception. A good start would be accepting the fact that the tech perception exists. As a former customer told me, “perception is reality.”

  33. Hi Bob,

    thanks for your answer. Yes, perception is reality and I accept that CRM is wrongly used in a technological sense only (as many other terms as well in the past and the future I dare say).

    So, it is up to us who think that this is not correct to work on evolving the perception into the right one – as this ultimately benefits all players. I include you there for two reasons: 1. you take position, also in your above article, and do not only report what you see
    2. you have and use influence

    The image of Japanese (and Korean, like Hyundai) cars improved a lot because they also delivered the quality. Apart from that I believe that in this case we see a classical example of disrupting a market from below where the new entrant car vendors delivered cars that had enough quality and excelled on something very important at that time (low fuel consumption); and this at a very attractive price point.



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